(Headline USA) The Democrats’ sweeping attempt to rewrite U.S. election and voting law suffered a major setback in the Senate Tuesday, blocked by Republican opposition to what would be the largest takeover of the electoral system in American history.
The vote leaves the Democrats with no clear path forward, though President Joe Biden declared, “This fight is far from over.”
The bill, known as the For the People Act, would touch on virtually every aspect of how elections are conducted, opening the floodgates to election fraud and illegal voting.
Many in the GOP say the measure represents instead a breathtaking federal infringement on states’ authority to conduct their own elections without fraud — and is meant to ultimately benefit Democrats.
It failed on a 50-50 vote after Republicans, some of whom derided the bill as the “Screw the People Act,” denied Democrats the 60 votes needed to begin debate under Senate rules. Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the chamber.
Biden praised Senate Democrats for standing together “against the ongoing assault of voter suppression that represents a Jim Crow era in the 21st Century.”
In a statement from the White House, he said that in their actions, though unsuccessful on Tuesday, they “took the next step forward in this continuous struggle.”
The rejection forces Democrats to reckon with what comes next for their top legislative priority in a narrowly divided Senate. They’ve touted the measure as a powerful counterweight to scores of proposals advancing in GOP-controlled statehouses making it more difficult to vote.
“Once again, the Senate Republican minority has launched a partisan blockade of a pressing issue,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said from the chamber floor. He vowed that the vote was the “starting gun” and not the last time voting rights would be up for debate.
Whatever Democrats decide, they will likely be confronted with the same challenge they faced Tuesday when minority Republicans used the filibuster — the same tool that Democrats employed during Donald Trump‘s presidency — to block consideration of the bill.
Republicans showed no sign of yielding.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell called the bill a “a solution looking for a problem” and vowed to “put an end to it.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz dismissed it as “partisan legislation, written by elected Democrats, designed to keep elected Democrats in office.”
And, more graphically, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito called the bill “a despicable, disingenuous attempt to strip states of their constitutional right to administer elections” that “should never come close to reaching the president’s desk.”
Pressure has been mounting on Democrats to change Senate rules or watch their priorities languish.
A group of moderate Democratic senators, however, including Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have ruled that out, denying the votes needed to make a filibuster change.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Georgia Democrat and senior pastor at the Atlanta church Martin Luther King Jr. once led, called minority Republicans’ willingness to prevent debate on the voting bill a “dereliction” of duty.
“What could be more hypocritical and cynical than invoking minority rights in the Senate as a pretext for preventing debate about how to preserve minority rights in the society,” Warnock said during a floor speech Tuesday.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.